Gramercy CRA 04

The site of the old Rite Aid location on Monroe Boulevard and 24th Street on Wednesday, March 6, 2019. 

OGDEN — Working toward a significant redevelopment effort, Ogden City is moving forward with a plan to purchase a coveted piece of property in the east-central neighborhood.

But a recently completed environmental review of the ground the site sits on shows the area will need some work before any construction can begin.

Earlier this week, the Ogden City Council approved a $600,000 amendment to the city’s budget, allowing for the purchase of a piece of property at 856 25th St., which is located inside the city block bordered by 24th and 25th streets on the north and south, and Monroe Boulevard and Gramercy Avenue on the east and west. Once home to a Rite Aid drugstore and several other retail establishments, Ogden City has been trying to redevelop the area for years now.

The property the city is set to purchase currently houses the 4-C Laundromat, and is one of the last remaining pieces of land the city needs to develop the area.

Ogden Deputy Director of Economic Development Brandon Cooper said with the council’s approval, the city plans to purchase the property outright, with the city’s current developer for the area, JF Capital, buying it back at a later date when construction is ready.

Cooper said recent, third-party analysis of the soil surrounding the property revealed the elevated presence of two potentially troublesome chemicals at the site: perchloroethylene and trichloroethylene. Perchloroethylene, commonly known as “perc,” is a colorless, nonflammable liquid solvent that has been regularly used for dry-cleaning fabrics and degreasing metals. Trichloroethylene, or TCE, is a commonly used industrial solvent. Both of the chemicals pose potential dangers to humans that come into contact with them, either directly or through vapors released from the ground. A dry cleaning businesses operated at the site years before the laundromat, the likely source of the contamination that exists there today.

The environmental analysis, Cooper said, showed evidence of the chemicals in a relatively narrow area of about 80 to 100 feet wide, flowing west in groundwater underneath the site. As a result, the city must excavate the area in an effort to find the source of the contamination and would likely have to install vapor barriers under any new buildings that would be developed at the site.

Cooper said those items would satisfy state and federal environmental requirements needed to proceed with construction. According to City Council documents, $155,000 from the recently approved $600,000 funding allocation will go toward the initial remediation efforts.

A measure that separates the city’s liability on the property from previous owners is also included in the purchase transaction.

The city’s current vision for the Rite Aid block involves a venture called “Capitol Square,” which includes a mix of housing types and office and retail space. A grocery store, a plaza, condos, townhomes, apartments and improved access to the Oasis Community Garden and Lester Park are all envisioned for the area.

The city or JF Capital already own most of the properties on the block, Cooper said. Three significant purchases were made in 2015, including an old IGA grocery building, a Wheelright Lumber facility and a large single-family home, and the city has continued buying activity since then. Cooper said the city kicked the tires on a proposal to put a Walmart at the site in 2016, but that idea never came to fruition. The city has already invested $3.2 million in the block.

“We’ve been undertaking this project for a number of years,” Cooper said. “We’ve never quite nailed what we feel is appropriate for the neighborhood. But, in the meantime we’ve been working to continue to buy up some of the properties that we think are necessary to make a project work.”

Council member Ben Nadolski was the lone dissenting vote on the purchase of the laundromat property. He said he was not against the development plan for the site, but was uncomfortable with its environmental state.

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